In 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Meyer v. Nebraska that each parent has the right to “establish a home and bring up children.” The state, however, has the right to intervene and protect children when the facts and circumstances call for it. The U.S. Supreme Court, in 1984, ruled in Schall v. Martin that “if parental control falters, the State must play its part as parens patriae”––that means the state can exercise its power to act as guardian for children who can't care for themselves. Terminating parental rights is part of this power.
The termination of parental rights is serious. We, at Rogers & Rogers, PC, take it very seriously, too. You can't afford to lose your rights. But also, if you are the parent seeking termination of the other parent's rights, you can't afford to lose if it's in the best interest of your child. Contact us today online or at (412) 434-7500 to schedule a Free Initial Consultation.
What Is the Termination of Parental Rights?
The termination of parental rights results in the complete separation of the child and parent. The parent cannot make decisions about or for the child.
How Are Parental Rights Terminated in Pittsburgh?
Termination can be voluntary or involuntary. If voluntary, the parent submits a form to the relevant court providing the reason for the termination. Voluntary does not mean that you can just give up your rights. On the contrary, you usually cannot unless someone else filed a petition to terminate your rights or someone else wants to adopt the child.
If involuntary, the process is more complex and contentious. Often, it begins with a report of abuse or neglect by a state agency, which is often the response to a complaint by the other parent or another person about abuse or neglect. The state agency conducts an investigation and makes a decision about what to do.
During the judicial proceeding, the state must satisfy a substantial burden of proof. In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Santosky v. Kramer that the state must show child neglect by “clear and convincing” evidence. This burden is less than the criminal burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt” but more than the civil burden requiring proof “by a preponderance of the evidence.” Upon clear and convincing evidence, the Court can terminate parental rights.
Once severed, the termination is usually permanent. In some rare cases, reinstatement of parental rights may be possible.
Common Reasons a Parental Rights are Terminated in Pennsylvania
The reasons for termination are outlined in state statutes. That said, common grounds for the termination of parental rights include:
- Unfit parent
- Serious risk of physical, emotional, or mental injury of the child
- Sexual assault
The parent can also lose parental rights when a state agency has given them the opportunity to rehabilitate or change their ways but the parent only shows minimal effort to support the child or completely fails to adjust and correct their behavior within a reasonable time.
What Are the Consequences of Termination of Parental Rights?
The consequences of parental rights termination are many and include but are not limited to:
- The loss of the parent-child relationship
- The loss of the ability to raise the child–loss of child custody
- No right to visit or speak to the child–loss of visitation rights
- No right to deny adoption of the child
If the parent whose rights are terminated had been court ordered to pay child support, the parent will no longer be obligated to do so.
Contact a Family Law Lawyer in Pennsylvania Today
The laws on the termination of parental rights are complex. Regardless of whether you are the parent who wants to terminate the other parent's rights or you are the parent whose rights may be terminated, seek legal help. The matter is too important to make a mistake, and it's not just your rights on the line, but that of the child's. Our family law lawyer will advocate for your rights or, alternatively, help file a petition to terminate the other parent's rights. Contact Rogers & Rogers, PC online or call us at (412) 434-7500 to schedule a Free Initial Consultation.